Life & Culture

Open Thread Update: What a Dilemma!

When our Sexpert, Joan Price, tackled a sticky issue recently, she – and we – were amazed at the range of responses (read it here).

In sum, a woman broke up with her lover of several years because he refused to remove the pictures of his well-loved first wife…including a semi-nude one of her…in his bedroom.

We included a poll asking readers to vote on who they thought was in the right – the woman who objected to the pix, or the man who refused. Here are the results:

He should have taken down at least some of the bedroom photos if they bothered his lover. 38%

Joan’s right, she should have voiced her feelings and then let it drop without an ultimatum.  28%

His memories of his wife are important to him and he should be able to hang her photos. 18%

She was right to give an ultimatum after all that time they spent together and him not acting on her request. 16%

If you haven’t weighed in on this, here’s the poll:

Joan advises a reader to be more accepting of the bedroom photos of her lover’s deceased wife. What do you think?

We all have pasts (and as we age that past gets longer and longer!)  The issue here seems to be how much sway we give (or allow) the past to have in our present and our future…and in the present and future of others.

Our readers had an interesting array of responses…

“He sounds like an insensitive, uncompromising person.”

-Debra B.

“In the case described above I think the new woman overreacted and thereby destroyed a budding connection.”

-Keith M.

“Seriously, they have been making love under her watchful eyes for years? – Ew’

-Michelle M.

Among the comments, Claudie H. got a number of “Amens” among the respondents…check out her thoughtful comment below, and feel free to add your own.

Virge Randall is Senior Planet’s Managing Editor. She is also a freelance culture reporter who seeks out hidden gems and unsung (or undersung) treasures for Straus Newspapers; her blog “Don’t Get Me Started” puts a quirky new spin on Old School New York City. Send your suggestions for Open Threads to her at





26 responses to “Open Thread Update: What a Dilemma!

  1. She should not have had to give him an ultimatum. They should not have been up in the first place if he was being with another woman. The first time she mentioned it, he should have apologized and took them down. None of this would have taken place if he had been a true gentleman. If a gentleman can’t give 100% of himself to a woman. He shouldn’t be with her.

  2. I think it points to a problem in the relationship that is bigger than the photos. This guy is clearly lacking in empathy and taste, to put it mildly, and this will eventually show itself in other ways too. The pickings are pretty thin for older women, so maybe she might choose to put up with it is she wants a sexual relationship or if other aspects of it are good. Or she might decide that she would rather have no-one than someone like that. Or another thought – put a big nude pic of her husband on her bedroom wall and invite him over!

  3. I understand his grief for the loss of the wife, but he should have kept her pictures some place else. The lover was right o have given him the ultimatum. He’s obviously not giving any values to her feelings. After all the wife is already gone. Grief in your heart, remove the pictures from the bedroom at least!

  4. I think she could have slept with him at her house if the pictures bothered her that much. But the fact that she had a relationship with him for so long before mentioning them leads me to believe she had hopes to replace her someday and that’s the true problem.

    1. I agree there’s something else here. Even the description— he is not her partner and nothing is mentioned beyond the bedroom. Still if it bothers her and the sexual relationship is important to both I think he should move the pics. Your question is appropriate— why is it bothering her Now

  5. I was married for 37 yrs at the time of my husband’s death. And although I loved my husband dearly, w hen I started dating a new man and we became serious, I took the pictures of my husband and put them in my office..which is my private space. There I can reminisce and feel close to his memory. I didn’t want my new partner to feel uncomfortable in my bedroom.

  6. I think it is really simple and each must decide the value of their relationship. She has decided his refusal to acquiesce something this important to her trumps their relationship. Its’ now his choice.

  7. I find it so interesting that among the comments above, all three men think there was nothing wrong with the first wife’s photos (semi-nude included) in the bedroom. It is rather typical of men to think that if they see nothing wrong in a situation, then there is nothing wrong to see for anyone, period. In other words, “I’m OK with it, so you should be OK with it too” without trying to understand the situation from the other side.
    If the woman lover had said from the very start “I’ll gladly make love with you but I’m asking that you remove your wife’s photos from the bedroom while we do so”, he would have most likely agreed, given the choice between that or no sex. But we women never advocate for ourselves and our feelings enough, so eager we are to please, even if there’s little for us in return.

    1. You’re absolutely right! We women need to be better advocates for ourselves. In this case in question, I don’t believe the male lover would have thought once to not comment on the picture of a semi-nude deceased or not spouse in her bedroom.

    2. I think she should be concerned if the woman was alive. I see this as a pure and true love for the deceased. Any man loving like that is worth keeping. I also think she should be glad to know where he stands. Its respect to me. I agree with Bob. she’s been with him this long. “love the one you’re with”.

  8. The lover should feel free to keep all the photos of his deceased wife, semi-nude or whatever, anywhere he wants to – the living room, his wallet, in his sock drawer, wherever – except on the bedroom walls when his new partner is there. Seriously, they have been making love under her watchful eyes for years? Ewww…as “godis” stated, “That sounds like a threesome. Yuck.” I also agree with previous comments that point out this seems selfish, shallow, disrespectful and indicative of a devaluation of the new person’s supposed importance in his life. Kudos to her for recognizing the warning signs of a uncompromising and insensitive attitude.

  9. As I recall, it was not a question of his having photos of his wife in the house but of having them in the bedroom. It would feel very uncomfortable to me to have my partner’s deceased wife ‘watching’ while we made love. He could move the photos to another room, except perhaps the semi-nude one, and that one could go in a drawer or a closet while his new partner was there. In a similar situation, I have moved even the large wall portraits of my grandchildren into another room, although I do still have some photos of my deceased husband hanging elsewhere in the house.

  10. Whichever way people voted, I’m glad that they feel invested enough in the topic to respond to this poll. It’s a situation that will likely face most of us, whether we’re grieving or we’re dating a griever. As I say in Sex After Grief (, there’s no one right way to grieve, nor is there one end date where we say, “OK, I’m over it. What’s next?” We don’t get over grief – we get through it. Sensitivity and communication are vital in trying to date again.

  11. Since he was in good enough spirits as to go ahead with his life and find a new partner, then he should’ve felt good enough to keep his memories to himself out of respect to his new partner and put them away (especially since she asked him to) yet he could still keep alive with his late partner by “speaking” with her when he’s alone…I hope they aren’t glued to each other so he could find moments to himself and his late love. Certain intimate memories don’t need an audience. :)

  12. At the least he should be willing to place the photos in a place where his current lover is not being confronted with them. It would be different if they were head shots, but semi-nude? No.

  13. The pictures of my deceased wife hanging in my home are not semi-nude, though I don’t think it would make any difference to Janice (also a widow) if they were. She feels a distinct benefit from my previous loving relationship with my wife of 54 1/2 years. She is grateful I bring the ability to be loving and honest into this new relationship. My lover is thankful to my wife for the many years of loving she shared with me, for now I get to carry that knowledge forward into the rest of my life, to her distinct benefit.

  14. We all grieve loss of a spouse/partner in different ways. Most of us who’ve had this experience retain photos and mementos of the deceased in our abode as a reminder of a good life together. When we open to a new partner s/he is NOT in competition with our memories, and the new person should respect our wish to recall our former relationship in whatever ways give us solace. In the case described above I think the new woman overreacted and thereby destroyed a budding connection.

  15. I disagreed completely with Joan’s response. I noticed that in her response she devoted a lot of space to telling how SHE felt about her late husband’s paintings which she had all over her house. But Joan, as a counselor, is supposed to enter sympathetically into her QUESTIONER’S dilemma, not talk about herself. My second reaction to the question was that this man has a very nice situation – lots of sex with no real commitment on his part. Of course, poor man, he is still grieving. Sex is OK, but don’t expect him to want to please his new (and supposedly important to him) partner. The fact that he is so insensitive to the photos and their implications for his new partner is very revealing of his real feelings about her – she fulfills a biological need, nothing more. The questioner mentions in her letter that there were other reasons besides the photos for the break-up, I think Joan should have explored these reason further. I suspect, given these unspecified other reasons, the presence of the photos was just the last straw. I agree that this woman did the best thing for her self esteem by breaking up.

    1. He sounds like an insensitive, uncompromising person. These traits were probably revealed in other ways as well. Who needs that after fifty??? The latter part of life should be happy and stress free. Good for her for setting up boundaries for herself.

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